I went to the fair on Friday. It wasn't at all early -- I'm not an early morning person. But still, the fair wasn't busy. I found parking easily. The rides were silent. Many of the vendors hadn't even opened up for business. The horse events were in progress. In the little petting-zoo, the liveliest activity was in the pens of the goat and piglets, the goats watching the comings and goings of the people, the piglets rooting for food in the hay.
The judging of the poultry had started.
I watched the judging of the poultry for a long, long time. A single judge had to look at hundreds of birds. He would reach into a cage, grab a bird, hold it upside down to look at the feet, then spread out each wing, one at a time, to look at the feathers. Often, he looked at the back end of the chicken as well, maybe ruffling up the tail feathers. Then he would pop the bird back into its cage. Then, with a black marker, the judge wrote a number on some of the cards attached to each cage. After a while, I noticed a woman following behind the judge and his assistant, stapling a ribbon, sometimes a red one, sometimes a blue one, onto the cards the judge had marked. She began to talk to me.
Candace commented on the importance of maintaining the existence of the old breeds, how the Canadian horse was taken to the U.S. and modified into the Morgan and looks more and more like a Standard bred today (I only vaguely knew what she was talking about). Fairs like this, she said, are what keep some of the old breeds going. The pure breed needs to be put back in, once in a while, she said. Someone came along and took over the stapling of ribbons for her.
When I told her my name, Candace laughed and said she has a Finnish friend whose maiden name she cannot pronounce. When I asked, she began to give me all sorts of advice on how to start out with chickens. When I mentioned that I had actually never held a chicken, she called George over.
George opened up a cage holding some white Silkies with blue skin on the face, and voila: I was holding a chicken! Just a little
nervously! Amazing how light the bird was ( the size of the bantam breeds). Candace thought I should avoid the breeds with feathered feet (messy). George, on the other hand, recommended the Cochins (with
feathered feet) for their docile nature. Next, George got a lovely colourful little bantam rooster for me to hold. I marveled at the detailed colouring on the feathers. I got some hints on how to hold onto the feet with one hand while holding the bird's weight in my other hand. Candace assured me that eventually, I'd be able to accomplish all this with just one hand.
When the rooster started to struggle away from me, flapping his wings, I was surprised to find I wasn't the least bit alarmed.
Later, I happened to sit at a picnic table beside George and his wife to eat lunch. When I asked if the judging was over yet, George said it would probably continue well into the afternoon. The judge handled each and every bird, of hundreds! Now I understood why, when I had arrived, there wasn't any crowd, no anxious owners of the birds who I had thought would be there to watch the judging process. I had noticed the judge examining the feathers and Candace had told me the standard colouring must be on the feathers, on every single one. One black feather on a white breed and it's out. Obviously, I have a lot to learn. Candace had also told me that years ago, there had been so many poultry at the show that their cages had been stacked three-deep. George also told me that it isn't what it used to be, as his wife nodded in agreement, that there used to be so many poultry to judge, that it took two judges in the old days. George kept repeating: "this judge is handling every single bird", and seemed to be impressed with his thoroughness. He repeated what Candace had told me earlier, that if I wanted to see lots of poultry, I should be at the Royal in November. His wife nodded.
I met a lovely lady leading a donkey, Isabel. When she's at home, Isabel guards the lady's sheep from coyotes, wolves and bears. Isabel is very smart and friendly (except to dogs) so the lady thought Isabel would enjoy the fair and children might enjoy petting Isabel. I petted Isabel. But Isabel was not at all impressed with my attentions. She could see the horses participating in the events across the way. Isabel kept manouevring herself to better see the horses, and would have gone over there to say hello, if she had been allowed.
I met Macoumba, originally from Senegal, who was selling African art, clothing, jewelry and drums. Ah, how I would have loved to buy one of the drums. I liked the idea before I even heard Macoumba play one. After hearing the deep, resonating sound, I wanted one even more, sigh! He had rigged up an interesting affair to add a tinkling, cymbal-like sound to the drumming. On the side of his drum he had secured three pieces of sheet metal about the size of my hand, stiffly protruding outward, like petals on a daisy. Holes pierced around the rim of each piece of metal held small metal rings. These vibrated, jingling like "bells" on a tambourine, whenever he struck the drum, adding their own raspy sound to the deeper sounds of the drum.
Macoumba spoke with the charming round accents of west Africa. His skin was so black it almost looked like velvet in the cold autumn sunshine. He laughed, even white teeth in a broad smile, commenting on the chill in the weather. Instead of sleeping in the tent, as is his custom, he said he had had to spend the previous night in his vehicle to keep warm!
I made a brief visit to the crafts and produce displays, marveling that the "most unusual houseplant" was just like my own fuchsia which had spent the summer on the "back" porch. I admired a few quilts and some weaving. I chuckled at the artwork from various school classrooms. Then I took the long way home, to enjoy the fall colours.